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Old 02-01-2005, 09:48 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Portable Multimedia Steals PDA Market

PDA users to mobile multimedia: "Been There, Done That!"

I had the pleasure of visiting with someone on an airplane who had an iPod. I'd never actually held one in my hands, so it was pretty exciting to me. I'm a sucker for just about any technology. The user was going on and on about how it was the best thing since sliced bread because music was available anywhere.

True, that iPod had something like 5gig, and my $150 Pocket PC only had a 1gig SD card, but I wondered why it is that the world seems to have only discovered portable MP3 players when iPod got popular.

How long have PDA fans been shouting at the top of their figurative lungs that these things are great! You can listen to MP3s of music or old time radio shows or movie sound tracks, or whatever you please. You can even play on a screen keyboard to make your own music. Read ebooks, watch movies, make wifi phone calls, browse the web, keep a photo album, organize your life, and do a myriad of things that portable multimedia players will probably never bring to the table. But iPods are a dream come true for many people. See page 2 of USA Today, for example... iPOD phenomenon. People love their iPods.

Now Sony is probably going to try to do a similar thing that Apple did with the iPod... steal away all the wonder and glory of the PDA by hyping on the PSP all those commonplace things that you can do more cost effectively with a PDA. But to the consumer that never heard the PDA message, it will sound like it's all a brand new thing when the PSP does it.

When it's all said and done, Palm and Microsoft are going to realize that they had a chance to dominate the market for portables. Instead of just sticking PIM and multimedia on phones, they could have stuck a phone on PDAs. But alas, the new specialty devices like iPOD and PSP that look like they will take over the portable non-SmartPhone market, leaving PDAs in the dust. How many years ahead in capability were all the PDA makers? How did they take advantage of that lead? How well did they convince the general public that PDAs can do just the things that they always wanted to do, but didn't realize it yet? No. Instead the message was "see the pretty color screen" and "replaces your datebook" and "this $400 device can replace a $50 jump drive". Only recently did they try to push the MP3 player stuff, and by then iPod was in the driver's seat.

People seem to think it was inevitable. I think it's a missed opportunity. It may not even be too late yet. But it's gonna take some kind of special publicity effort to play catch up now.

The worst part of the picture from the business side is that PDA makers don't seem to have any arrangements for tie-ins to get the related revenues. Apple has iTunes revenues. Sony has control over content and content delivery. All the more with the severe DRM laws. Microsoft seems to just be content to stay in the background as an enabler of technology, kind of like PalmSource. And the only tie-in that PalmOne seems to have found is to ride on the coat tails of the smart phone business. I doubt they are even getting much of a kickback from all the mobile carriers that are raking in the bucks for data and phone plans on these things.

If PDAs really do become nearly extinct, don't blame the form factor. Blame the market players that let a great opportunity slip right by. And the next time you see someone considering a 512meg MP3 player, be sure to show off your fancy PDA with movies and songs and a whole lot more!
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Old 02-01-2005, 10:36 PM   #2
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I have an iPod and I love it.

I also own 2 PDAs. A Clie for more traditional PDA functions, and a Zaurus I use for fun (yay, custom ROM building!) and for network... "security" applications. Port scanners, packet sniffers, and the like... All perfectly legal, as long as you simply use them to test your own networks, or have permission from the network admin.

So while it may take away for some, having a Palm is SO useful for school. Very nice to write down all your homework, classes, and everything else in it.

Sure, an iPod can handle contacts and calendars, but in a read-only fasion. I rarely use iCal to add or check off any work or classes, I do that on the Clie.

So sure, media players may take a bite out of PDAs, but if there are people like me, PDAs will never die.


And don't even get me started on the PSP...
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Old 02-02-2005, 05:57 AM   #3
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I think most people simply don't want an "all-in-one" device. (They don't want converged phones and PDA's either.) People prefer separate devices. (I.e. Gameboy/DS/PSP for gaming, iPod for music, phone for voice and text messaging.)
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Old 02-02-2005, 04:04 PM   #4
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Usability. Out of the box most PDA has clunky audio players (Microsoft Media Player works better but is still hard to navigate through say a hundred songs)...then you need an external media to store more than a few songs...then you need to have an external card reader or contend with loooong transfer times using Activesync or need third party software (on most PalmOne devices). So in the end, to make a PDA an audio players, it need geeks to make it work.

Games on PDAs are hindered by poor button layout. The Tapwave was poorly supported and the Gizmodo is just arriving but support from big game studios are lackluster. You need big companies to make those splashy games that sell consoles.

One trick ponies are easier to market for the masses, as long as it does the job better and cheaper than the competition. And admit it, would you rather carry and play with one device that does all or a dozen that do their specific task very well (note: you don't need to carry all of them around).
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